COVID-19 and the College Admissions Cycle


Nicholas Abbatiello, Arts and Entertainment Editor

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more standardized tests are being canceled, and more universities are going test-optional. 

The SAT and ACT have been a long-held staple of the college admissions system. However, many colleges have begun to institute test-optional admissions systems, meaning that the school doesn’t require an SAT or ACT score from applicants. Surrounding cancellations due to COVID-19, many schools are temporarily switching to a test-optional application for this year’s prospective students.

This change is occurring even in highly selective or high ranked schools such as Tufts, Northeastern, and Boston University. According to U.S. News & World Report, all three of these universities are within the top forty in the country. Northeastern and Boston University are going test-optional only for this application cycle’s applicants, who would enroll for their first semester in fall 2021. Tufts, however, is instituting a test-optional application for the next three application cycles. 

Some colleges that have switched to a test-optional application cycle are planning to stay test-optional permanently. For example, all seven of Oregon’s public universities collectively decided to institute a permanent test-optional policy. The recent events surrounding COVID-19 spurred their decision and may lead to other permanent policies.

Around the nation, the March and May SAT tests were canceled, leaving thousands of students unable to take the test. At Ward Melville, the test was canceled the night before the scheduled date, with the May date being canceled shortly after. 

Another form of cancellation sweeping the nation is school closings. Around the country, schools are being forced to move to online school, further adding to the confusion of admissions. The Governments of forty-six states have mandated school closings temporarily, or until the end of the academic year, such as in nineteen states. While Ward Melville is maintaining its grading system, many schools are opting for a mandatory pass/fail grading system. 

This leaves colleges without concrete transcripts from the spring semester, perhaps pushing increased importance onto other years besides junior year. However, there are other factors, such as SAT Subject Tests, AP Exams, and extracurricular opportunities that also have been affected. 

Many universities, such as Ivy League schools Columbia and Harvard do not require optional standardized tests like the SAT Subject Tests or AP Exams but encourage prospective students to take the exams and send their scores. Amid cancellations and adjustments to these tests, many students won’t be able to take them, contrary to the wants of universities. Universities assure prospective students, however, that they will keep a holistic approach to admissions and keep in mind the cancellations when examining applications.

It seems that a holistic admissions process will be the theme for the admission cycle of the class of 2025 college hopefuls. As the process becomes even more unpredictable, it will be interesting to see how else colleges may adapt to the ever-changing COVID-19 situation.